Christmas is about spending quality time with family and friends while sharing in the joy of the season. It can also be a very expensive time. Don’t let financial stress bring you down during the holidays. To help make this your best year yet, here are seven helpful tips for planning your Christmas budget.
1. Create a budget early
Christmas in July may seem a little crazy but it’s never too early to start saving and planning your Christmas budget. Don’t wait until December to figure out how much money you have to spend on gifts, decor, traveling etc.
2. Break your budget into categories
Gifts for family and friends are just one expense you have during the holidays. To help account for hidden costs, consider breaking your budget into six main categories: gifts, decor, food, travel, mail/shipping, and donations.
3. Set a spending limit for each category
Once you’ve broken your budget into categories, set a spending limit for each category. If it’s helpful and feasible, go a step further and determine a specific dollar amount for each person for whom you’ll be buying a gift. Doing this ahead of time will help you not be tempted to buy a gift out of your price range when you’re out shopping.
4. Download an app
Stay organized by downloading an app like The Christmas List for iPhone or Christmas Gift List for Android. These apps are the perfect solution for keeping track of gifts and other holiday related purchases.
5. Use one credit card for all of your purchases
Spending can get out of control when you’re making purchases using multiple forms of payment. Designate one credit card for all of your Christmas expenses so you can see and calculate everything at once. If you prefer to use cash, make an envelope for each budget category so you don’t go over your spending limit.
6. Set a deadline for purchasing gifts
Giving yourself a deadline for purchasing gifts will help you to not fall prey to last minute sales or rush shipping costs. It will also ensure you get the necessary gifts in the mail on time.
7. Don’t be afraid to say no
During Christmas there are countless activities, parties, and gatherings to attend. Don’t be afraid to say no to an invitation if it requires funds or time you can’t afford. For example, if you enjoy seeing a stage production like A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker, consider going every other year to cut down on cost.
Clarissa Fidler is a 20-something trying to find her place in this world. She grew up in Seattle, attended college in Utah, and recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest after spending three years in Chicago obtaining her master’s degree in journalism. Clarissa spends her days working as a higher education professional helping graduate students pursue their passions. In her free time you’ll find her reading the New York Times, cuddling with her cat Harper, catching up on her favorite blogs, enjoying the outdoors, or checking out a new restaurant. If you’d like to read more by Clarissa, check out her blog West Hawthorne Place.